WE CAN THANK Laura Anna Stortoni and Mary Prentice Lillie for this excellent translation and study of Gaspara Stampa’s poetry.... Gaspara’s poetry is timeless.... The beauty of the Italian language gleams from this dual-language edition,... while the English translation keeps the melody and the integrity of the Italian text.
[Stortoni and Lillie] translate Gaspara Stampa’s poems into modern English verse with linguistic ease and emotional vitality....
[Stortoni and Lillie] are a remarkable example of translators who not only capture the original Italian idiom but also bridge an historical and cultural gap.
“Sweet are the uses of adversity” hath writ our beloved Edward de Vere (to the masses known as Shakespeare), and thus sweetly did one very gifted woman, Gaspara Stampa (1523-1554), use the pain of love to pen what some have boldly declared the finest verse to emerge from an Italian woman during the Renaissance.
She unabashedly and eloquently expressed the joy and torture of her intense passion for “Count” Collaltino, a man of noble birth who, though he engaged willingly in the romantic liaison on and off for three years, neither reciprocated the intensity of Gaspara’s devotion nor a parallel eloquence of verse. (My gentler readers will find no complaint from me if they think of him as a cad.)
When Gaspara’s father died around 1530, Gaspara’s mother, Cecilia, took her three children back to her native Venice—a city renown for art, poetry, music and courtesans. Whether or not Gaspara Stampa was a courtesan has been much debated. Though a wonderful musician in her day (trained to sing and play the lute by the French composer and musician Perissone Cambio), Gaspara’s reputation has endured as that of the poet.
Her devotion to verse and to revealing every aspect of love’s emotional roller coaster is amazing for its feminine courage. Her verse was set to music by minstrels, who surely carried it with them to the very ears of the French gentlewomen of whom Gaspara was so jealous when Collaltino entered the service of Henry II of France.
A precious volume titled Gaspara Stampa:Selected Poems, edited and translated by Laura Anna Stortoni and Mary Prentice Lillie, is published by Italica Press, N.Y. Here you find a fascinating introduction to Gaspara as well as the significance of her literary accomplishment, followed by a body of verse both in Italian and English.
If ever there were a collection of poetic justice, this is it, for as Laura Ann Stortoni comments from Berkley, California: “[Collaltino] strove to acquire glory for himself. But – and this is Stampa’s tremendous posthumous revenge—he is remembered only as she portrays him: as an aloof, cold and neglectful lover” (xxv).
The Faire Reporter, August 20, 2009